Thursday, April 12, 2007

Honesty still best policy

The Silver & Gold Record carries an open letter from CU professor and chairpersyn of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct, Mimi Wesson, in which she notes an error in the committee's report that, though insignificant, will undoubtedly be used by Churchill's supporters to attempt to discredit the whole report:
We wrote (on page 34 of the report): "The pages referenced in the Salisbury book do not contain the words `Wampanoags' and have no discussion of any disease or epidemic (including smallpox)." In this assertion we were incorrect. There is, beginning at page 101 of Salisbury's work, a discussion of a disease epidemic that began in 1616 among the native peoples of New England. There is also at page 102 (beyond the range of Professor Churchill's citation, but still a part of the same discussion) a reference to the "Pokanoket" as one of the peoples who suffered greatly from this epidemic. Professor Cheyfitz has reportedly said that the Pokanoket are (or are a branch of) the Wampanoag. Thus our statement was literally incorrect concerning the absence of any mention of a disease, and (if Professor Cheyfitz is correct) it did not take account of the possibility that the people mentioned in the ensuing discussion were part of the Wampanoag tribe.
As the report explains, Professor Churchill's response to the committee's questions concerning his use of Salisbury as a source for his claims was not to make the points now argued by Professor Cheyfitz (who did not appear as a witness before the committee), but to disclaim any reliance on Salisbury, saying that the reference to Salisbury's work had been a mistake caused by hasty writing. Possibly he made this choice of response because Salisbury makes clear that Smith left New England in June of 1614, never to return, and that the epidemic did not begin until sometime in 1616. I encourage those who would see this error as an important factor in our findings to read the report with care.
Yeah, that'll happen. On the other hand, the Record corrects an obvious misquote from committee member Michael Radelet that Churchill's unscrupulous supporters have been beating him about the head and shoulders with for a week:
A March 29 news story, "Debate over Churchill case persists," quoted Michael Radelet of UCB sociology as saying, "If there's anything in [the Neal] Salisbury [book, Manitou and Providence: Indians, Europeans and the Making of New England, 1500-1643] that says the U.S. Army intentionally introduced smallpox, I'll eat the book at the 50-yard line." The reference in the quote to the U.S. Army was incorrect; Radelet was referring to Capt. John Smith, not the U.S. Army.
(via PB, who also links to an article in the Colorado Daily which, while begging, "Don't Dismiss Him," damns Churchill with paint phrase.)

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